Financial Sector Overview
Djibouti’s economy is mainly based on services. The economy’s dynamism has recently been strengthened by the development of transport infrastructure. GDP growth averaged 5.4% between 2010 and 2017, slightly lower than the East African Community (5.6%) but significantly higher than the 3.3% recorded in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Despite these positive developments, the country still faces major challenges. High poverty and unemployment rates and limited economic its vulnerability to economic and climate shocks. In addition, instability in the Horn of Africa poses a real threat to the Djibouti economy. The authorities have designed a development strategy, known as Vision Djibouti 2035, which aims to transform Djibouti into a middle-income country and a logistics and trade hub for East Africa. The business environment has improved markedly in the World Bank’s Doing Business. The country climbed to 99th place, up 59 places from 2010, largely due to improvements in time to investor protection and business creation.
Financial Sector Overview
Djibouti’s financial system is still underdeveloped. It is dominated by the banking sector, which holds more than 95% of financial sector assets. As of July 2019, the financial landscape consisted of 11 banks with majority foreign ownership, including 8 traditional commercial banks and 3 Islamic banks. Islamic finance products and services have attracted nearly 20% of bank customers. The non-bank financial sector consists of 20 authorized financial auxiliaries (foreign exchange bureaus and/or remittances offices), 3 microfinance institutions, 2 insurance companies and an economic development fund specializing in SME financing. In 2011, the Central Bank raised the banks’ minimum capital to 1 billion Djibouti Francs (DJF) (US$5.6 million), up from DJF 300 million (US$1.7 million). Reforms initiated in the sector include: (i) the establishment of a partial credit guarantees fund for SMEs/SMIs, (ii) the modernization of the national financial infrastructure with the establishment an automated transfer system and an electronic clearing house, (iii) the introduction in July 2016 of the law creating a new national payment system and, (iv) the law establishing a credit information system.
Structure – In 2017, banks’ consolidated balance sheets stood at DJF 438.1 billion (US$ 2.06 billion), or an increase of 21.2% over a year. 25% of the adult population have a bank account an increase of more than 2.2 percentage points over 2014. The increase in the number of active banks and increased competition have led to the creation of 8 new bank branches between 2016 and 2017. The two largest banks hold about 67% of the assets, but their share is declining due to increased competition in the sector.
Credit and deposit structure – Credit to the private sector reached DJF 102.3 billion (US$ 0.48 billion), in 2017 (28.7% of GDP), up from 10% in 2016, due to an increase in medium- and long-term loans. Loans to the private sector have been steadily increasing since 2014, as credit institutions pursued a policy of proximity through the opening of several branches in the capital city and the interior regions. Customer deposits were DJF 358.1 billion (US$ 1.69 billion)in 2017, an increase of 25.9% over 2016. They are dominated by demand deposits, which averaged 66.2% of the total between 2014 and 2017.
Debit and credit interest rates – Between 2011 and 2015, the deposit rate remained well below the lending rate. The high spreads of around 10% between 2011 and 2017, reflect limited bank intermediation.
Financial strength of the banking sector – Banks have gradually strengthened their capital base following the increase in minimum capital requirements in 2011. The banking system’s net consolidated shareholder’s equity stood at DJF 23.6 billion (US$ 0.11 billion) at the end of June 2017, an increase of 16.2% compared to June 2016. The bank solvency ratio remained in line with the minimum regulatory requirement (12%), apart from in 2014 where it dropped below the regulatory threshold. The liquidity ratio, although below the required threshold of 100%, has steadily improved since 2014 to 74.9% in 2017. The quality of assets has gradually deteriorated since 2014. The provisioning rate for bad debts improved from 67.2% in 2016 to 75.8% in 2017, however banking profitability remained positive. The consolidated net profit of the domestic banking sector amounted to 2.4 billion DJF (US$ 11.3 million) in 2017, which represents an increase of more than 648 million DJF (US$ 2.6 million) compared to the end of 2014.
According to IMF data, the number of commercial banking agencies per 100,000 adults in 2015 was 6.4 in Djibouti and 5.6 in Kenya. However, in Djibouti, only 9.21% adults hold a loan account in a commercial bank, while this rate is 23.1% in Kenya. At the end of 2015, about 5% of Djiboutians had a bank card.
Access to credit also remains one of the main constraints in the formal private sector. Only 5% of companies have access to bank financing. The expansion of the financial sector as a result of financial liberalization contrasts with the low level of inclusion and is partly explained by the sector’s strong concentration on a few individuals and companies. More than 80% of banks exceeded the single-borrower competition limit between 2012 and 2015.
Access to financial services is constrained by several factors including: (i) unemployment and poverty that do not allow a category of households to meet the costs of managing bank accounts, even if opening conditions have been relaxed in a context of increased competition; (ii) low mobile and internet penetration, (iii) high credit costs and, (iv) underdevelopped payment and credit information systems limiting banks’ financing offerings. Promoting financial inclusion requires strengthening financial infrastructure, developing microfinance and liberalizing the telecommunications sector.
Djibouti’s microfinance is under developed, with limited coverage and low market penetration rates. The sector does very little to support small entrepreneurs and non-performing loans remain high. Medium- and long-term credits, and those for amounts between DJF 1 million (US$ 5,618) and DJF 3 million (US$ 16,854), are not satisfied. The Djibouti People’s Savings and Credit Bank (CPEC), the main MFI, was placed under administration by the Central Bank, following management problems between 2012 and 2015. In 2014, it had more than 14,000 customers, about 3% of the country’s adult population. The institution’s loan stock remains negligible (less than 0.2% of to bank credit) due to the insufficient financial resources. Although a sector development strategy was designed and adopted in 2012, it is yet to be implemented.
Digital Finance remains underdeveloped due partly to limited internet and mobile penetration and a lack of institutional and technical capacity. Only 38% of households subscribe to a mobile phone service (54% in East Africa), and only 12% of them have access to the internet. Low geographic coverage and high subscription prices are the main causes of this low penetration. Djibouti is ranked 158th out of 176 countries in the Information and Communication Technology Development Index (ICT) published by the International Telecommunications Union.
Access to finance for SMEs is a recurrent issue in Djibouti. Most SMEs operate in the informal sector and cannot access bank loans. SME loans account for only 12% of business loans. The limited scope of the credit reporting system, and the unreliability of the financial information presented by the SMEs partly explain the low levels of credit granted to businesses. In addition, the degressive tax system is a deterrent to formalisation of SMEs.
The social security system consists mainly of two contributory schemes: a special scheme and a general scheme. The special scheme regime is that of state employees and their dependants. The Ministry of Employment takes care of state officials by financing their pension scheme through the State budget. Coverage of the general scheme extends to health (work-related accident and illness), family (family benefits), old age and death. This second regime is reserved for workers under the provisions of the labour code. In addition to these two schemes, the military pension fund provides specific social security coverage for the military personnel.
An institutional reform aimed at establishing coherence between agencies gave rise in 2008 to the National Social Security Fund (CNSS – Caisse Nationale de Sécurité Sociale), a merger of the Social Protection Organization (OPS – Organisme de Protection Sociale) and the National Pension Fund (CNR – Caisse nationale de Retraite). The CNSS is under the authority of the Ministry of Employment and Administration Reform. Although progress has been made, the social security system remains limited, both in terms of risk and social coverage due to increasing demand. The CNSS is financed on the one hand by contributions paid by employers and those levied directly on workers' wages; on the other hand, the CNSS benefits from government subsidies. In addition, the persistent collection problems undermine the CNSS’s chances of financial sustainability.